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HEALTH

France ‘considering’ charging non-vaccinated people for Covid tests

The French health minister has said he is willing to consider the idea of charging non-vaccinated people for 'convenience' Covid tests - for example tests needed to travel or to enter venues like nightclubs.

France 'considering' charging non-vaccinated people for Covid tests
Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

Patrick Berche, a doctor and member of the Académie de médecine has proposed starting to charge for Covid tests done for “personal convenience” – if the patient is not vaccinated.

At present all tests are free – even for tourists – and test results can be presented instead of a vaccination certificate at events which require a health passport to enter – such as concerts or nightclubs – or for travel.

READ ALSO How France’s health passport works

Berche’s idea is to exert a gentle pressure on more people to get vaccinated.

Tests performed for contact tracing reasons or if a person has symptoms, will remain free.

“It’s an option that’s being looked at,” health minister Olivier Véran told France Info on Tuesday.

“Not right away, because currently we need everybody to be able to be tested, and it’s a credit to our country that there are no financial obstacles to getting tested.

“Once all French people have been offered the vaccine – and there are some who are yet to take the plunge – the question will arise around whether, when going to a nightclub or such and such place with a convenience test even though you’re not symptomatic or a contact case, this should be paid for from the public purse.

“I’m very open to discussions on this topic.”

“It’s a great idea,” Benjamin Davido, an infectious disease specialist, told Le Parisien.

“Some will say that it is an unconfessed form of vaccination obligation, but I do not agree: nothing obliges to visit a relative abroad or to go to a concert. The goal is mainly to eliminate the few people who do routine tests or for their own convenience.”

France is one of the few countries that does not charge for travel tests.

It has also extended free testing to tourists over the summer, mainly to keep Covid numbers down, but something that is welcome for travellers who need a test to return to their home country.

READ ALSO How visitors can get a Covid test in France

Throughout the earlier stages of the pandemic, people in France were encouraged to take a test before visiting elderly relatives or travelling to another part of the country, but now authorities are keen to direct people towards vaccination.

The rate of first injections for the vaccine has slowed in recent weeks, worrying for authorities as cases of the Delta variant of Covid are on the rise. 

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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